Founder of Ghost Ship warehouse, site of deadly 2016 Oakland fire, to serve 9 years under plea deal

Derick Almena appears in a 2017 booking photo released by the Alameda County Sheriff's Office. (Credit: KGO via CNN)

Derick Almena appears in a 2017 booking photo released by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. (KGO via CNN)

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The founder of the Oakland arts collective that became the site of one of the deadliest fires in California history will receive a plea deal in which he will serve less than 10 years in prison, ending a years-long legal saga that followed the deaths of 36 people inside the Ghost Ship warehouse.

Relatives of the victims were told Wednesday morning that Derick Almena will be sentenced to nine years in state prison instead of facing a third trial on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to two relatives of victims who lost their lives in the 2016 blaze.

Prosecutors had accused Almena of extreme negligence, arguing he turned the bare-bones East Oakland warehouse into a death trap through a series of illegal construction projects and shoddy electrical work. The structure was filled with pianos, tapestries, furniture and other items that acted as kindling when the blaze broke out during a concert.

There were nearly 100 people inside at the time, and prosecutors said Almena’s co-defendant, so-called “creative director” Max Harris, had closed off one of only two exit routes, forcing victims fleeing the fire to navigate a rickety staircase made of wooden pallets.

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